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What can we learn about cholesterol’s transmembrane distribution based on cholesterol-induced changes in membrane potential?

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4585-4590
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Cholesterol is abundant in the plasma membranes of animal cells and is known to regulate a variety of membrane properties. Despite decades of research, the transmembrane distribution of cholesterol is still a matter of debate. Here we consider this outstanding issue through atomistic simulations of asymmetric lipid membranes, whose composition is largely consistent with eukaryotic plasma membranes. We show that the membrane dipole potential changes in a cholesterol-dependent manner. Remarkably, moving cholesterol from the extracellular to the cytosolic leaflet increases the dipole potential on the cytosolic side, and vice versa. Biologically this implies that by altering the dipole potential, cholesterol can provide a driving force for cholesterol molecules to favor the cytosolic leaflet, in order to compensate for the intramembrane field that arises from the resting potential.

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland